By the way, I’ll accept other title ideas. I came up with a short story idea earlier this morning and decided to play with it. Constructive feedback is welcome.
Jason looked at himself in the mirror, using an eyeliner pencil to make the last necessary adjustments to his makeup. “Perfect!” he said out loud, even though no one could hear him. He still got a private dressing room, in deference to his past greatness. He may not have the starring roles anymore. He might make more mistakes in his lines, but he still commanded the respect of audiences and directors.
There was a knock on the door. “Ten minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message.
Jason smiled. His timing on getting his makeup done was still impeccable. Ever since he’d started in theater, he had done his own makeup. “It helps me as I become my character,” he had told countless makeup artists. And now, his routine to get into character would continue. He stared at the mirror, inspecting his makeup one last time. Satisfied, he slowly closed his eyes and went over the play in his mind.
His first play ever had been a church play where he had been shepherd number 3 in the Christmas pageant. He saw the character playing Joseph follow this same routine, and he’d adopted it ever since. It had served him well as his characterizations had earned him three Tony nominations. He allowed himself to reminisce about that history for about five seconds, and then went back to work. He muttered softly as he told himself where to make his entrances, he recited his lines.
He needed to be perfect this last night of his career, and he got so engaged in his thoughts, that he realized he must have missed the underling’s five-minute call. He heard the overture playing. He cursed silently to himself, knowing that his routine called for him to be ready in the wings just before the overture started playing. Now, he rushed to get to his place, so he could relax for a few seconds before his entrance. The director had made a special accommodation to allow him to begin this, his last play, alone on the stage with one extra line, so that the audience could acknowledge their appreciation for his career.
They had flocked to see the once-great Jason Riordan in his last performance. Those who had acted alongside him, those who had seen him, and those who had just heard about him – he was one of the few truly beloved actors. He got to his spot on the wing with a little over a minute to spare, and he took a couple of cool-down breaths. Then, he did that which he had never done before in his career, he pulled back the curtain and sneaked a peak at the audience. The lights kept him from seeing much of the audience, but those people he saw and recognized left him with a slight case of stage fright.
He closed the curtain and took another deep breath, and then, he was on. From that first, special line, to his performance throughout the play, to his final line, he was perfect. He didn’t suffer from the missed lines or cues that had plagued him in recent years. His swan song performance was amazing, and the audience recognized it. Audience decorum was thrown to the winds as his fans screamed his name and he took bow after bow. The stage hands picked up flowers that were thrown in congratulations. He left the stage triumphantly after one of his finest performances ever. He walked back to his dressing room accepting handshakes, hugs, and pats on the backs from the cast and crew of his last show. He kept looking at the floor, lest they see his tears, and by doing this, missed seeing their tears as well. He arrived at his dressing room for the last time and sat down, laying his head on the makeup table to rest for a few minutes before taking his makeup off one, last time. He didn’t want to take it off just yet, because that would make his retirement too final.
There was a knock on the door. “Five minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message. This time he waited for the customary acknowledgment. There was none. He knocked harder, and called out louder. When he got no answer, he ran in and saw Jason slumped with his head down on the makeup table. He checked for a pulse. When he didn’t get a pulse, he ran out in the hall and looked for a stage hand. “Get the director!” he yelled.
“Sir, the director’s …” the stage hand began.
He cut him off. “Don’t argue with me. Get the director now.” When he saw him hesitate, he added, “This is a real emergency.”
The stage hand finally believed him, ran off and came back with the director. “Jones, I don’t know what this is about, but it better be a real emergency.”
He gestured for the director to follow him. When the director saw Jason, he stopped in his tracks. “That how you found him?” he asked.
The director walked over and tried to find a pulse himself. He teared up a little when he realized that Riordan was gone. He walked around and looked at his face. He couldn’t help but wipe away his tears and smile himself when he saw Riordan’s smile. It was his after-performance, embarrassed smile that he used when he’d look at the director and ask if they couldn’t make the curtain calls stop. “It would have been one, great, last performance,” he said as he closed Riordan’s eyes.